For those not keeping score, Grandmaster Flash has been to urban music what Todd Rundgren has been to MOR pop. Clearly, both would exist without these important early purveyors, but — and arguably — the resulting genres would have been quite different.
In The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats (Broadway), Flash — with the help of bestselling author David Ritz (Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, Rhythm and the Blues) riffs through his early life and career with the aplomb one would expect from the man many consider to be the father of contemporary hip hop.
There are times he tells his story calmly: one word neatly marching behind the other in accepted fashion. Other times he shares his remembrances in rhyme and still others when he tells his story in a sweet blend of both. Here, for example, he shares the disappointing result after an early performance:
Maybe my speakers weren’t loud enough. Maybe the people didn’t recognize the jams. Maybe they weren’t in the mood. Maybe they just didn’t understand.
Whatever it was, you could have heard a pin drop in that park, and my stomach was starting to twist. I looked over and saw Miss Rose, Penny, Lilly, and Mom. They could tell I was crushed. I could see them hurting for me, but there was nothing they could do.
Career-wise, of course, things got better from there. Flash’s tale does not end with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, but it’s close. And though the book concludes on a hopeful note, one gets the feeling a lot has been left unsaid. In some ways, though, that’s OK. On the journey he gives us a taste: the misunderstood talent, the larger-than-life success, the almost inevitable addiction followed by recovery followed by the reevaluation of a life that needs to be richly lived. If the latter years of The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash seem sketchy — and they do — it may just be that the book itself is a bit premature. This is a story still in progress with many chapters still to write.